Funding changes may mean women slip through the health net

The Victorian Government commitment to roll community mental health funding into NDIS is likely to result in some women, currently supported by McAuley Community Services for Women, slipping through the health net.

Ms Bignold is calling on the Victorian Government to rethink its strategy. The NDIS currently caters for people living with a permanent disability rather than those who experience episodic bouts of mental illness.

Currently, McAuley receives funding for four ‘mental health’ beds through Victoria’s adult residential rehabilitation program. However, this funding will be allocated to the National Disability Insurance Scheme with no guarantee that replacement accommodation will be available.

“With our current housing crisis, Victoria cannot afford to lose any women’s accommodation. The last thing we want to see as a result of NDIS is more women sleeping on the streets,” Ms Bignold said.

“McAuley supports women who are homeless, isolated, unwell and often estranged from family. It appears from the NDIS trial sites that the model is working well for people with disabilities and who are supported by family members who act as vocal advocates for their needs”

“We cannot presume that the women we support would actually be eligible for the NDIS, and therefore will slip through the health net.”

Last year, the Victorian Government committed $5 million to St Mary’s House of Welcome, Jesuit Social Services and Prahran Mission to strengthen access and mental health support services in the community for people with complex presentations including homelessness.

“We argued then, and will continue to argue, that McAuley Community Services for Women should be given additional funding to strengthen our mental health support services. Our gender specific focus places us in an important position to reach women who otherwise would remain unwell, and costing the health system far more,” said Ms Bignold.

The recent 10 year Mental Health Plan for Victoria submits that some groups face greater challenges to their mental health, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and people experiencing family violence. We see this in our family violence crisis service with 62% of women reporting mental health issues.

It also flags that the government will work hard to ensure that the National Disability Insurance Scheme delivers what Victorians need, and will make sure that our continuing system of community care is responsive to the particular needs of people living with mental illness.

“From our perspective, policy makers must stop treating people as one homogenous group. We have different conditions which require a range of support services, not all of which can be funded or bundled into the NDIS,” said Ms Bignold.